The end of May marks graduation season for most high schools, and this year Orlando’s Orange County Public Schools recently celebrated a diverse group of “Super Scholars,” 74 graduating seniors who have been admitted to top-20 higher education institutions and service academies.
“I just thought it was important that parents know, and the community knows, that children can get into America’s elite colleges with an Orange County public-school education,” Bill Sublette, chairman of the Orange County School Board, told the Orlando Sentinel.
Samuel Vilchez, who immigrated from Venezuela in the eighth grade — and who spoke no English when he arrived in the U.S. — graduated in May as the valedictorian of Colonial High School and is headed for Princeton in the fall. Makedah Hughes, valedictorian of Apopka High School, was accepted into five leading schools but ended up accepting an offer from Brown.
Yold Evans, of Evans High School, is headed to Vassar College thanks to a scholarship from QuestBridge, a nonprofit that helps students from low-income families pay for top-ranked schools.
This year’s group of Super Scholars also includes students headed to Duke, Johns Hopkins, Yale, the University of California at Berkeley and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, among others.
Out of 19 high schools in the Orange County system, 16 had Super Scholars. Winter Park High School, which had 16 of these top students, led the pack.
There have been numerous attempts made in recent years to improve outcomes for public school students in Florida by providing education that is simultaneously more comprehensive and more diverse. Florida is one of the approximately 40 states that now offer government-funded pre-kindergarten, for example, in hopes of boosting graduation and college admission rates, and while an achievement gap remains between white students and students of color, there are some indications that this gap is narrowing.
In 2013, OCPS even created a Minority Achievement Office, with the goal of providing an environment more conducive to the success of minority students.